CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE!

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 91 cling to dad
There was a time when our kids held on to us for dear life in scary situations. Now, they have kids who hold on to them! But, I will never forget our rainy camping trip in Missouri years ago when they were much younger. The rain came down so hard one day that camping ceased to be fun. “Let’s take the kids to a movie”, we said, “that will be less scary than being in a camper with lightening and thunder all around us!”
 
We closed up the camper and drove into town. We found a movie theater by cruising main street, (what you did before there was Siri). We got out of the car with three kids in tow and ran through the rain. We took refuge inside the theater. We discovered that a Disney movie was playing…Yes!
 
Psalm-91-ride.jpg
“The Fox and the Hound” sounds wonderful right? It was until the scene in the middle of the movie when a wild animal jumped loudly out the bushes to devour his prey. That scene caused our youngest to literally jump from her seat, landing squarely on her dad’s lap. She held on for dear life throughout the rest of the movie. I thought we might have to leave the movie early but dad’s arms kept her calm for rest of the movie which gave us all a happy ending.
 
Our next Psalm tells how God keeps us close to Him as we hold on for dear life. The words are beautiful and reassuring to all who believe and follow Him. We all have had moments when we, too, say,
 
“God, you’re my refuge, I trust in you and I’m safe!”
 
Like our youngest held tightly to her dad, we hold tightly to our Father in heaven in times of fear or trouble because of His promises to us:
 
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of trouble.”
 
Psalm 91, The Message
Psalm 91 1 21-13 You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
 
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
 
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around,
drop like flies right and left,
no harm will even graze you.
 
Psalm 91 14You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God’s your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
and kick young lions and serpents from the path.
 
Psalm 91 hold on14-16 “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”
 
HEART CHECK:
 
Psalm 91 secret place
Our youngest’s first instinct was to run to Dad and hold on for dear life. As believers what is our first instinct or action in times of trouble and fear?
 
Who do you trust…seriously?
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are our refuge, our hiding place, our place of rest from battling evil. You are who we hold onto for dear life! You are Life. Forever. Thank you! Yes! I will continue to get to know you until we are face to face in your glorious place of forever refuge for all who believe and trust in You.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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GOD IS…HOME

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 90 shelter
After a long trip away it is always good to be home. Home is where you can totally relax. You don’t have to be anything but you. You don’t have to dress up. You don’t have to be tense and stressed about what others think. You can just be you. Home should be a good place to just be.
 
What about the home you grew up in, that place of your parents? The saying is “you can’t go back home” means that after you move away it is hard to go back to the place where you were once thought of as a child. You no longer are a child but those “back home” think of you still in that state of mind. It is human. They are surprised you grew up. Some are amazed that you are still alive! (Smiling) Your parents, if they are alive, freeze frame you as a twelve year old. In their minds you are still someone they must protect because of their great love for you. They miss you when you are not there as you were before in their care.
 
What if GOD is HOME? As believers and followers of God, God is our home, our place of peace, encouragement and according to Psalm 90…our affirmation! If God is our Home, He is where we can be ourselves, where we are comfortable and at peace. We are “at home” all the time with a God who loves us more than we love ourselves, who created as with purpose, who protects and provides for all our needs…no matter what we do for Him! He is our salvation, our hope and peace through all of life. Yes, God is Home.
 
“God, it seems you’ve been our home forever; long before the mountains were born, long before you brought earth itself to birth, from ‘once upon a time’ to kingdom come’–you are God.”
 
Psalm 90 God is at home
Wow, what it God isn’t your Home? The world around us is dying to know someone who will give them worth and value. Their selfish living on their own trying to satisfy their own current felt needs isn’t working for them. Even if it is working, there is no one to tell them how much they are loved unconditionally because they have been on their own for so long. There is something missing. They have no Home. They cannot find affirmation for doing things all by themselves. They want to be known and affirmed for just being. God is that Someone!
 
If we work with a mind to please the LORD first and over anyone else, God notices. If we come Home to God, He is there waiting and ready to bless. If we do the work HE invites us to do…excellently and with enthusiasm…He affirms us. He knows our name, for God is Home, our Home. Come Home.
 
Psalm 90, The Message
A Prayer of Moses, Man of God
 
Psalm-90-God.jpg
1-2 God, it seems you’ve been our home forever;
long before the mountains were born,
Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”—you are God.
 
3-11 So don’t return us to mud, saying,
“Back to where you came from!”
Patience! You’ve got all the time in the world—whether
a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.
Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
no more than a blade of grass
That springs up gloriously with the rising sun
and is cut down without a second thought?
Your anger is far and away too much for us;
we’re at the end of our rope.
You keep track of all our sins; every misdeed
since we were children is entered in your books.
All we can remember is that frown on your face.
Is that all we’re ever going to get?
We live for seventy years or so
(with luck we might make it to eighty),
And what do we have to show for it? Trouble.
Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.
Who can make sense of such rage,
such anger against the very ones who fear you?
 
Psalm 90 teach us12-17 Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!.
 
BACKGROUND OF THE OLDEST PSALM
 
Psalm 90 God is Home
Life was not easy for Moses, but he triumphed, and in this psalm (the oldest Psalm written) he shared his insights so that we, too, might have strength for the journey and end well.
 
We Are Travelers and God Is Our Home (vv. 1-2).
Numbers 33 names forty-two different places Israel camped during their journey, but no matter where Moses lived, God was always his home. He “lived in the Lord.” He knew how to “abide in the Lord” and find strength, comfort, encouragement, and help for each day’s demands.
 
We Are Learners and Life Is Our School (vv. 3-12).
Moses was “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians”, but the lessons he learned walking with God were far more important. In the school of life, we need to learn two important lessons: Life is brief and passes swiftly, so make the most of it; and life is difficult and at times seems futile but this is the only way to mature.
 
We Are Believers and the Future Is Our Friend (vv. 13-17).
In spite of the “black border” around this psalm, the emphasis is on life and not death. The past and present experiences of life prepare us for the future, and all of life prepares us for eternity.
 
The closing prayer emphasizes God’s compassion and unfailing love, His desire to give us joy and satisfaction even in the midst of life’s troubles, and His ability to make life count for eternity. When Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord, the future is your friend!
 
Psalm 90 God is foreverHEART CHECK:
 
How does it affect you to know that no matter where you live, God is your “Home”? Why?
 
This psalm speaks about the shortness and preciousness of life. How can you invest your life rather than just spend it?
 
What big decision confronts you today? How will you bring the Lord into that decision?
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
You speak to our hearts each morning with new manna perspectives that are needed at just the right time in the right way by your Holy Spirit. Thank you for these thoughts of affirmation for those who believe and follow You. You are my Home forever. I will never stop believing. I will always seek to be at Home with You. Forever. You are God and I am not. You are Home.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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PASSWORDS OF PRAISE

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
Psalm 89 forgotDo you have trouble remembering all the different passwords to your accounts and computer programs. Passwords “secure” what you have so well that if you forget them, YOU can’t touch what you know, the account you need to pay, the fun of a game or even open your phone to get a call. You must have a password for everything in this life. That’s why I am a bit amused at Eugene Peterson’s paraphrased words in our next psalm…
 
“Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise, who shout on parade in the bright presence of God.”
 
Psalm-89-praise.jpgAs we read the whole prayer of praise, which also asks why at the end, we learn that the “passwords” are trust and obey…for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. (Yep, everything reminds me of a song.) When we don’t know and live these passwords of praise in our lives, God will allow us to live with the consequences of our disobedience until we mature in His ways. But, know this, He never leaves us. He always loves us.
 
“Delighted, they dance all day long, they know who you are, what you do–they can’t keep it quiet!
Your vibrant beauty has gotten inside us–you’ve been so good to us! We’re walking on air!”
 
“All we are and have we owe to God.
Holy God of Israel, our King!”
 
“Blessed be Yahweh forever and always!
Yes, Oh, yes.”
 
Psalm 89, The Message
An Ethan Prayer
 
Psalm 89 1.jpg1-4 Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it!
I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.
I’ll never quit telling the story of your love—
how you built the cosmos
and guaranteed everything in it.
Your love has always been our lives’ foundation,
your fidelity has been the roof over our world.
You once said, “I joined forces with my chosen leader,
I pledged my word to my servant, David, saying,
‘Everyone descending from you is guaranteed life;
I’ll make your rule as solid and lasting as rock.’”
 
5-18 God! Let the cosmos praise your wonderful ways,
the choir of holy angels sing anthems to your faithful ways!
Search high and low, scan skies and land,
you’ll find nothing and no one quite like God.
The holy angels are in awe before him;
he looms immense and august over everyone around him.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who is like you,
powerful and faithful from every angle?
You put the arrogant ocean in its place
and calm its waves when they turn unruly.
You gave that old hag Egypt the back of your hand,
you brushed off your enemies with a flick of your wrist.
You own the cosmos—you made everything in it,
everything from atom to archangel.
You positioned the North and South Poles;
the mountains Tabor and Hermon sing duets to you.
With your well-muscled arm and your grip of steel—
nobody trifles with you!
The Right and Justice are the roots of your rule;
Love and Truth are its fruits.
Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise,
who shout on parade in the bright presence of God.
Delighted, they dance all day long; they know
who you are, what you do—they can’t keep it quiet!
Your vibrant beauty has gotten inside us—
you’ve been so good to us! We’re walking on air!
All we are and have we owe to God,
Holy God of Israel, our King!
 
19-37 A long time ago you spoke in a vision,
you spoke to your faithful beloved:
“I’ve crowned a hero,
I chose the best I could find;
I found David, my servant,
poured holy oil on his head,
And I’ll keep my hand steadily on him,
yes, I’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
No enemy will get the best of him,
no scoundrel will do him in.
I’ll weed out all who oppose him,
I’ll clean out all who hate him.
I’m with him for good and I’ll love him forever;
I’ve set him on high—he’s riding high!
I’ve put Ocean in his one hand, River in the other;
he’ll call out, ‘Oh, my Father—my God, my Rock of Salvation!’
Yes, I’m setting him apart as the First of the royal line,
High King over all of earth’s kings.
I’ll preserve him eternally in my love,
I’ll faithfully do all I so solemnly promised.
I’ll guarantee his family tree
and underwrite his rule.
If his children refuse to do what I tell them,
if they refuse to walk in the way I show them,
If they spit on the directions I give them
and tear up the rules I post for them—
I’ll rub their faces in the dirt of their rebellion
and make them face the music.
But I’ll never throw them out,
never abandon or disown them.
Do you think I’d withdraw my holy promise?
or take back words I’d already spoken?
I’ve given my word, my whole and holy word;
do you think I would lie to David?
His family tree is here for good,
his sovereignty as sure as the sun,
Dependable as the phases of the moon,
inescapable as weather.”
 
38-51 But God, you did walk off and leave us,
you lost your temper with the one you anointed.
You tore up the promise you made to your servant,
you stomped his crown in the mud.
You blasted his home to kingdom come,
reduced his city to a pile of rubble
Picked clean by wayfaring strangers,
a joke to all the neighbors.
You declared a holiday for all his enemies,
and they’re celebrating for all they’re worth.
Angry, you opposed him in battle,
refused to fight on his side;
You robbed him of his splendor, humiliated this warrior,
ground his kingly honor in the dirt.
You took the best years of his life
and left him an impotent, ruined husk.
How long do we put up with this, God?
Are you gone for good? Will you hold this grudge forever?
Remember my sorrow and how short life is.
Did you create men and women for nothing but this?
We’ll see death soon enough. Everyone does.
And there’s no back door out of hell.
So where is the love you’re so famous for, Lord?
What happened to your promise to David?
Take a good look at your servant, dear Lord;
I’m the butt of the jokes of all nations,
The taunting jokes of your enemies, God,
as they dog the steps of your dear anointed.
 
52 Blessed be God forever and always!
Yes. Oh, yes.
 
Psalm 89 blessed who knowWE LEARN…
 
Does God no longer keep His promises? The faithfulness of the Lord is the major theme of this psalm (vv. 1-2, 5, 8, 14, 33, 49). Of course, God’s great promises to David have their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the son of David (Luke 1:26-38, 68-79). The psalm gives us four assurances about the faithfulness of the Lord.
 
1. God Is Faithful in His Character–Praise Him (vv. 1-18).
2. God Is Faithful to His Covenant–Trust Him (vv. 19-29).
3. God Is Faithful in His Chastening (vv. 39-45).
4. God’s Faithfulness Will Never Cease–Wait for Him (vv. 46-52).
 
HEART CHECK:
 
How does nature praise the Lord?
 
How can your words glorify the Lord? How can your life praise Him?
 
Psalm 89 granted.jpgDear Heavenly Father,
You have gotten inside us. Your Presence is always with us as you, in good times and bad, just as you promised. We praise you above all gods and kings. You are our God and we are not. We don’t even come close. We repent of going our own way. We live to praise you. We live to trust and obey, focused on you, keeping in step with your steps. Help us, still, Lord. I’m listening. I’m right behind you, Lord!
In Jesus Name, Amen
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DEPRESSION

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty
 
Psalm 88 depression
Depression, thinking all is lost, and assuming you are lost and forgotten by others is bad. But when you sink to the depths thinking that God has forgotten you, your name and circumstances, then it is time to refocus! Why? Because these are lies. These misconceptions of Who God is to us, his created, are mind suggestions put there by Satan himself.
 
Our next Psalm is depressing to read. The writer is honest and gritty. The writer feels all is lost…but it isn’t. God has not changed. But he feels even God is against him. Who is the overcomer in this one sided conversation with the Creator, the One who moves heaven and earth to save us?
 
Who wins your thoughts for the day when you give in to replays of current and past hurts and painful circumstances that bring you to your knees?
 
Depression. Darkness. It happens to all of us. To Whom do we go for help, clarity, focus and TRUTH? To Whom do we trust…no matter what? How long do we wait?
 
“I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help, at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.”
 
“…the only friend I have left is Darkness.”
 
Psalm 88, The Message
A Korah Prayer of Heman
 
Psalm 88 cry
1-9 God, you’re my last chance of the day.
I spend the night on my knees before you.
Put me on your salvation agenda;
take notes on the trouble I’m in.
I’ve had my fill of trouble;
I’m camped on the edge of hell.
I’m written off as a lost cause,
one more statistic, a hopeless case.
Abandoned as already dead,
one more body in a stack of corpses,
And not so much as a gravestone—
I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
blinded by tears of pain and frustration.
 
Psalm 88 prayer
9-12 I call to you, God; all day I call.
I wring my hands, I plead for help.
Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?
Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you?
Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?
Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell?
Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,
your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?
 
13-18 I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,
at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
Psalm 88 18
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear?
Why do you make yourself scarce?
For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting;
I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and I’ve had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;
I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side,
raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.
You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
the only friend I have left is Darkness.
 
SEEK TRUTH…SEEK LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS!
 
In the Hebrew text, the psalm ends with the word hoshek, “darkness,” and there is no closing note of triumph as in other psalms that begin with pain and perplexity. The psalm speaks of darkness (vv. 1, 6, 12, 18), life in the depths (vv. 3-4, 6), the immanence of death (vv. 5, 10-11), feelings of drowning (vv. 7, 16-17), loneliness (vv. 5, 8, 14, 18), and imprisonment (v. 8). Heman was a servant of God who was suffering intensely and did not understand why, yet he persisted in praying to God and did not abandon his faith. Not all of life’s scripts have happy endings, but that does not mean that the Lord has forsaken us. From Heman’s experience, as recorded in this psalm, we can discover four instructions to follow when life falls apart and our prayers seemingly are not answered.
 
1. Come to the Lord by Faith (vv. 1-2).
Heman’s life had not been an easy one (v. 15), and now it had grown even more difficult, and he felt that death was very near (vv. 3, 10-11). But he did not give up! He still trusted in God. No matter how we feel and no matter how impossible our circumstances, we can always come to the Lord with our burdens.
 
2. Tell the Lord How You Feel (vv. 3-9).
There is no place for hypocrisy in personal prayer. One of the first steps toward revival is to be completely transparent when we pray and not tell the Lord anything that is not true or that we do not really mean.
 
3. Defend Your Cause before the Lord (vv. 10-14).
Before he went to the sanctuary to assist in the worship, Heman prayed to the Lord for healing and strength, and at the close of a busy day, he prayed again. During his daily ministry, he heard the priestly benediction: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26 nasb)–but the blessing did not come to him! He felt rejected and knew that God’s face was turned away from him. But he kept on praying!
 
4. Wait for the Lord’s Answer (vv. 15-18).
The darkness was his friend because it hid him from the eyes of those who observed his sufferings and may have said (as did Job’s friends), “He must have sinned greatly for the Lord to afflict him so much!”
 
But he continued to pray and to look to God for help! “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:13-14 nasb). The Lord always has the last word, and it will not be “darkness.” We should never doubt in the darkness what God has taught us in the light.
 
HEART CHECK:
 
The psalmist, Heman, endured pain and suffering, yet he kept on praying.
How do you explain the fact that some believers experience ongoing pain and suffering despite their prayers?
Did the Lord promise us an easy road?
What did He promise (see Matt. 28:20)?
 
Heman questioned the Lord’s fairness (v. 14).
Why do you agree or disagree that it is all right to question the Lord’s fairness?
 
THINK ABOUT IT…
(Help from Sarah, “A Penny of a Thought” blog)
 
Psalm 88 dark is my only friend
Suffering is no stranger to humanity. Millions of people are trapped in human trafficking. Countless suffer from a physical, mental, or emotional disability that ostracizes them from society. The stress of losing a job, paying bills, natural disasters, broken relationships, unmet longings, or the loss of a loved one plague us on a daily basis.
 
Suffering’s complexity has been responded to with a complexity of answers. For some suffering is an illusion, a figment of our imagination. For others, it’s simply a way of life. It is what it is, therefore we should grit our teeth and bear it. Still others see suffering as punishment for past misdemeanors or current behavior (we get what we deserve), while others claim it is for our good to make us better people. Yet these answers tend to leave the sufferer tossed on a sea of pain, with no hope of anchor.
 
Despite this song’s darkness, principles to be applied shine from its anguish. First, this song gives individuals permission to be honest with God in persistent prayer. It is an uncomfortable fact that feelings of divine and human abandonment are common among God’s people. Yet it is often the case that when individuals are at their lowest, others try to tell them they should “just believe,” thereby indicating that the struggle of and for faith is inappropriate. This song encourages us that in times of darkness we can have confidence to speak honestly to God, expressing our pain, anguish, confusion, and even anger.[19] The darkness is an opportunity to pursue more vigorous, urgent petition.[20] Even in the face of silence, like Heman we can continue to honestly cry out day and night before the Lord.
 
Second, this song reminds us that the Church needs to be Christ’s physical presence to those who feel abandoned by God and by others. Isolation and loneliness from human abandonment are realities for many who suffer from affliction, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Yet Jesus Christ has called his Body to be ambassadors for him and to carry the burdens of others, thereby demonstrating his love and presence.[21] Contrast this with the experience of Heman, who was shunned and abandoned by those who knew him. How might his response to God have been different if the community of faith had surrounded him with support and care?
 
A third principle to be drawn comes from the assurance that our experiences do not always align with reality. Specifically, while we may experience what feels like abandonment by God, the truth is that for those who have trusted in Christ, he is there even in the darkness when he cannot be perceived. Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the only one who truly experienced Psalm 88, legitimately and fully shunned by God and humanity.
 
Psalm 88 JesusThis Christ who experienced true abandonment has promised to always be with those who have trusted in him, and to never leave or forsake them.[24] For those who are his, their story does not end in the darkness of Psalm 88 but in the light of Revelation 21-22.
 
Each of these principles related to Psalm 88 raises a unique challenge for those who are suffering. They are bombarded with questions regarding God’s character, often face the agony of abandonment (whether intentional or unintentional), and experience the pain of isolation. Unfortunately the discomfort we, including myself, experience with this song reflects the discomfort we feel towards those who are deeply suffering. We are afraid of it. Therefore, we run from it, ignore it, or briefly acknowledge it and then casually pass on by. It takes the courage of the Holy Spirit and the love he imparts to encourage others to be persistently honest with God and to cling to the hope of Revelation 22. It takes Christ’s strength to be present with those who sit in darkness.
 
Psalm-88-trust.jpg
Psalm 88 is desperately dark. We need to allow it to communicate that message because the faithful community of God often experience the perception of divine abandonment and the reality of human abandonment. Yet while Psalm 88 ends in darkness, the story of God’s people ends in his presence where there will be no more darkness and every tear will be wiped away. Therefore, let us cling to him and never stop trusting him.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
When darkness falls over us, You are there to lead us to Light and Life. Thank you for this honest, depressing psalm that changes my own thinking about today. I came to you with my own darkness and You turned me around. I will always trust you with my life. I trust you with my mind, heart and soul. Thank you, Lord for these thoughts that lift us up to where you are so we can get a glimpse of how You think and perceive our suffering and dark times.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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WE’RE MARCHING TO ZION!

Psalm 86 zionPsalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
We’re marching to Zion
Beautiful, beautiful Zion
We’re marching onward to Zion
The beautiful city of God!
 
I hear this chorus ring in my memory from childhood as I read our next psalm of praise and victory in knowing God and meeting Him on His terms.
 
The psalmist was not indulging in arrogant nationalism but only seeking to glorify the God of Israel and the blessings He bestows. The psalm must be read on two levels. It is a prophecy of the future kingdom, when all nations will come to Jerusalem to worship, and it is also a picture of the heavenly Zion where the children of God have their spiritual citizenship. When we come to know Christ and follow Him as Lord, our name goes in The Book of the heavenly Zion where God resides and where we will live forever with Him. Hallelujah!
 
We’re marching onward to Zion…the beautiful city of God!
Psalm 86, The Message
A Korah Psalm 
 
Psalm 87 city of God1-3 He founded Zion on the Holy Mountain—
and oh, how God loves his home!
Loves it far better than all
the homes of Jacob put together!
God’s hometown—oh!
everyone there is talking about you!
 
4 I name them off, those among whom I’m famous:
Egypt and Babylon,
also Philistia,
even Tyre, along with Cush.
Word’s getting around; they point them out:
“This one was born again here!”
 
5 The word’s getting out on Zion:
“Men and women, right and left,
get born again in her!”
 
6 God registers their names in his book:
“This one, this one, and this one—
born again, right here.”
 
7 Singers and dancers give credit to Zion:
“All my springs are in you!”
 
THINK ABOUT IT…
 
Psalm-87-joy.jpg
The psalmist shares three wonderful truths about the city of Jerusalem. Comments by Warren Wiersbe help us to understand the full extent of the meaning and importance of Zion, “the city of God”.
 
1. The City Is Built by God (vv. 1-3).
David chose Jerusalem for his capital city (2 Sam. 5:6-10), and the Lord validated that choice by putting His temple there. The nation of Israel was to be separate from the other nations both politically (Num. 23:9) and geographically. That is why God called Jerusalem “my city” (Isa. 45:13) and “the Holy City” (Isa. 48:2; 52:1) and Zion “my holy mountain” (Isa. 11:9; 56:7; 57:13). It is “the joy of the whole earth … the city of the great King” (48:2).
 
It is His foundation from which He has built His great work of redemption (Isa. 14:32). “Salvation is of the Jews,” said Jesus (John 4:22); and were it not for Israel, the world would not have the knowledge of the true and living God, the inspired Scriptures, or the Savior. Jesus died and rose again outside the walls of Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit descended on the church meeting in Jerusalem on Pentecost, and it was from Jerusalem that the early Jewish believers scattered to carry the gospel to the nations.
 
*NOTE: We do not worship the place of God but The One and Only God of the place. (Just thought I would throw that in for clarity.) Too many people worship where they were saved, like church campgrounds or at “the little church in the woods”, instead of the God of salvation through Jesus, His Son. Be careful.
 
The phrase “the gates of Zion” refers to the city itself, a city God loves above all cities in the Holy Land. (See Deut. 7:6-9; 2 Chron. 6:5-6; Isa. 60:11-12; Zech. 1:14.) In Jerusalem was not only the temple of the true God, but also the throne of David, and it would be the Davidic line that would give us the Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
In the end times, Jerusalem will be a center of controversy and conflict, but the Lord will rescue His beloved city (Zech. 12:1–13:1). But the prophets have written some “glorious things” about the future Jerusalem, and the apostles have written even more glorious things about the heavenly Jerusalem!
 
Psalm 87 city of God in Jerusalem2. The City Is Inhabited by His Children (vv. 4-6).
The Lord is described as a king taking a royal census and registering individual names (“this one … that one …”), but the remarkable thing is that these people are Gentiles and that God is making them His own children and citizens of His Holy City! Even more, the nations named are the avowed enemies of the Jews! The emphasis in all three verses is on birth, indicating that the people who enter the future glorious kingdom will experience a “new birth” and belong to the family of God.
 
Psalm 87 all
The Old Testament prophets promised that believers from all the nations of the earth would be included in Messiah’s reign and so did the psalmists “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14 nkjv)
 
3. The City Enjoys His Abundant Blessings (v. 7).
As citizens of Zion and the children of God, the Jews and Gentiles not only live together, but they also sing together and play musical instruments as they rejoice in God’s blessings.
 
HEART CHECK:
 
Psalm 87 holy peopleWhy is Zion, Jerusalem, so cherished by the Jews? What future will Jerusalem and its inhabitants ultimately enjoy?
 
Why is the place where you were “born again” and decided to follow Jesus so important to you? Do you remember the people who pointed the way to Jesus for you? Who are they? Name them one by one…and thank God for them.
 
Psalm 87 Jesus
Jesus provides living water for His followers. Describe the satisfaction you have in Jesus, and contrast it with the thirst unbelievers experience. If not born again…to whom are we marching?
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
We are indeed marching to Zion…to You. Thank you for saving us, making us whole, restoring the joy and peace Your salvation gives. Thank you for your plan that was created with your creation! Thank you for life eternal in the city of You! Keep me focused and on the right road to You.
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
And I’m singing…We’re Marching to Zion (by Isaac Watts, 1707)  
 
Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne.
 
Psalm 86 marching to zionWe’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.
 
The sorrows of the mind
Be banished from the place;
Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less.
 
Let those refuse to sing,
Who never knew our God;
But children of the heav’nly King
May speak their joys abroad.
 
The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;

Celestial fruits on earthly ground

From faith and hope may grow.
The hill of Zion yields 
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav’nly fields, 
Or walk the golden streets.
 
Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.
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THIS IS AMAZING GRACE!

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
We have all been to the point of disgrace and humiliation in our lives. If you have not, then you are either to young to know, too lazy to work hard enough fail, to make someone jealous or mad, or you are in complete denial about life. It happens to all of us if we admit the warfare we are in daily. We go our own way for just so long, then BAM, God steps in to set us right again–if we let Him.
 
Psalm-86-15-love-and-grace.jpgThis is called amazing grace by the Creator of the world who loves us enough to confront us or lets us live, for awhile, in the consequences of our sin, before calling us back to Him. Are we waiting on Him or is He waiting on us to call to Him? Mm.
 
As we read David’s prayer of praise to the One and Only who brought him through war and back again, in the center of God’s love and care, we hear this song in our own hearts as call to the Lord in times of trouble…
 
Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
 
Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
 
Psalm 86 graceThis is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
 
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me
 
Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King of Glory
 
Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
 
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You…
 
Psalm 86, The Message
A David Psalm
 
Psalm 86 you alone1-7 Bend an ear, God; answer me.
I’m one miserable wretch!
Keep me safe—haven’t I lived a good life?
Help your servant—I’m depending on you!
You’re my God; have mercy on me.
I count on you from morning to night.
Give your servant a happy life;
I put myself in your hands!
You’re well-known as good and forgiving,
bighearted to all who ask for help.
Pay attention, God, to my prayer;
bend down and listen to my cry for help.
Every time I’m in trouble I call on you,
confident that you’ll answer.
 
Psalm 86 You are my God8-10 There’s no one quite like you among the gods, O Lord,
and nothing to compare with your works.
All the nations you made are on their way,
ready to give honor to you, O Lord,
Ready to put your beauty on display,
parading your greatness,
And the great things you do—
God, you’re the one, there’s no one but you!
 
Psalm 86 teach me11-17 Train me, God, to walk straight;
then I’ll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord;
I’ve never kept secret what you’re up to.
You’ve always been great toward me—what love!
You snatched me from the brink of disaster!
God, these bullies have reared their heads!
A gang of thugs is after me—
and they don’t care a thing about you.
But you, O God, are both tender and kind,
not easily angered, immense in love,
and you never, never quit.
Psalm 86 11 heart
So look me in the eye and show kindness,
give your servant the strength to go on,
save your dear, dear child!
Make a show of how much you love me
so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed,
As you, God, gently and powerfully
put me back on my feet.
 
YES…THIS is amazing grace!
 
THINK DEEPLY ABOUT THIS AMAZING GRACE…
 
At a time of danger, when he felt inadequate to face the battle, David found three encouragements in the Lord that also help us today!
 
Psalm 86 13 love1. God’s Covenant Is Secure (vv. 1-7).
David pleaded for help on the basis of his covenant relationship with the Lord, just as believers today pray in the name of Jesus and on the basis of His covenant of grace.
 
There are at least fourteen personal requests in the psalm, which suggests to us that effective praying is specific. David “cried [called]” and the Lord answered.
 
2. God’s Character Is Unchanging (vv. 8-13).
David had learned much about God’s character and the way He works in the lives of His people. God is great in who He is and what He does, and the false gods of all the nations are nothing.
 
David focused on his own walk with the Lord. After he was delivered from danger, he wanted to walk so as to please and honor the Lord.
 
A perfect heart is a sincere heart that loves God alone and is true to Him (James 1:8, also Deuteronomy). David, also a prophet, promised to praise God forever for delivering him from the grave, a hint here of future resurrection of Jesus!
 
Psalm 86 glory to God
3. God’s Glory Shall Prevail (vv. 14-17).
David’s enemies were proud of themselves and their abilities, violent, and totally ignorant of and indifferent to the God of Israel. But David looked away from them to the Lord, who had saved and guided him all his life.
 
The apostle Paul tells us that knowing these attributes of God ought to lead people to repentance (Rom. 2:4).  David wanted his deliverance to bring glory to the Lord and to demonstrate to the nations that Jehovah alone was God. It wasn’t just warfare; it was witness, a “sign” of the goodness of the Lord to David. It was his way of praying, “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9). When our requests are in God’s will and glorify His name, we can be sure He will answer.
 
Often my prayers for help end in, “May YOUR (God) glory be seen in this!”
 
Yes, this is amazing grace!
 
HEART CHECK:
 
Psalm 86 your willThis psalm depicts David as inadequate to face a battle. Is a sense of inadequacy helpful or harmful when we face life’s battles? Explain.
 
What characteristics of God, cited in this psalm, strengthen your faith?
 
Why is it good to know “there is none like you, O Lord”?
 
David asked God to grant him His strength. For what specific task or trial do you need God’s strength?
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your amazing grace that is given daily in all the details of our lives. You are The One and Only God…and we are not. There is no one like You, dear Lord! I love you with all my heart, mind and soul. I am listening for you. I will be looking for you around every corner of today. May your glory be seen in me. Thank you for saving our souls and making us whole.
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
Psalm 86 amazing grace
Amazing Grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see!
 
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
 
This is amazing, reckless love…
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me
 
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
 
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me
 
Psalm 86 love of GodAnd oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
 
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me….
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COME NEAR TO US

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty
 
Psalm 85 helping.jpgPicture two different groups of people who call you friends. One group is loving, kind to each other, smiling, and laughing while helping someone in need of finishing a project that was too much for one person. They are celebrating the completion of the project with high fives all around, thanking God for helping them.
 
Psalm 85 joking peopleThe other group is huddled around a table in the local Starbucks. They, too, are laughing and talking loudly as they belittle and mock one of their “friends” who is struggling with life. They judge and criticize while tearing down this person in many ways. Their words are harsh, unkind and unloving.
 
Which group do you come near? Which group will give bring joy to your heart? Which group do you think loves YOU? Which group will be awkward for you?
 
Now, picture God choosing between the groups. Who will He come near and help? Who will bring a smile to His face? Who will He want to bless? Who will HE want to hang around? Which group of friends brews anger from the heart of God?
 
Psalm 85, The Message
A Korah Psalm
 
psalm-85-restoration.jpg1-3 God, you smiled on your good earth!
You brought good times back to Jacob!
You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people,
you put their sins far out of sight.
You took back your sin-provoked threats,
you cooled your hot, righteous anger.
 
Psalm 85 revive4-7 Help us again, God of our help;
don’t hold a grudge against us forever.
You aren’t going to keep this up, are you?
scowling and angry, year after year?
Why not help us make a fresh start—a resurrection life?
Then your people will laugh and sing!
Show us how much you love us, God!
Give us the salvation we need!
 
Psalm 85 listen
8-9 I can’t wait to hear what he’ll say.
God’s about to pronounce his people well,
The holy people he loves so much,
so they’ll never again live like fools.
See how close his salvation is to those who fear him?
Our country is home base for Glory!
 
10-13 Love and Truth meet in the street,
Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss!
Truth sprouts green from the ground,
Right Living pours down from the skies!
Oh yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty;
our land responds with Bounty and Blessing.
Right Living strides out before him,
and clears a path for his passage.
 
SOMETHING TO THINK OVER…
 
We cry out for God to draw near to us but are we ready for Him to come into our world of hate and unkindness? If we do not follow His ways of treating others with unselfish love which directly is in correlation to how we treat God, do we wonder why He looks away? It is AWKWARD at best for God to hang around a people who are self centered and unkind to each other and to others they do not care to know, just as it is awkward for us to choose to be like the group who tears down others.
 
Psalm 85 salvation
I hear you saying, “Well, Jesus hung around sinners and unkind people.” Yes, He did. He loves us all. But He came to seek and to save lost and misguided people. From a place of love He pointed them back to God. He did not become like them. He showed them a better way. Then He laid down his life for all of us. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you was the mantra of Jesus.
 
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8, NKJV
 
TO PUT IT EVEN MORE CLEARLY….
 
“7-10 So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:8-10, The Message
 
Psalm 85 footsteps
God’s people did not always obey the Lord or show kindness to each other, but they did make a new start. The Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings,” and he is right. It is a sin to disobey God and fall, but it is also a sin to stay fallen. We must always make a new beginning, and this psalm gives us some instructions that we can follow after times of failure with God’s discipline.
 
This prayer psalm of honesty teaches us to:
 
Give Thanks to the Lord (vv. 1-3).
Ask Him for Renewed Life (vv. 4-7).
Listen for God’s Message to You (vv. 8-13).
 
Psalm 85 10 kiss
HEART CHECK:
 
Verse 6 links revival, resurrection with joy. Do you believe revival or spiritual renewal always produces joy? Explain.
 
What picture of Jesus’ person and work do you see in verse 10: “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other”?
 
How does it help you to embrace the future knowing “the Lord will indeed give what is good” (v. 12)?
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
We need to give you plenty of room for your passage through our lives. You will draw near to those who follow you. You will bless those who you call Friend and obey You. I am reminded of the old hymn, Lord, that was a favorite of Grandpa Lacquement who led the congregation to sing it with every person’s baptism, declaring new life in You…”Trust and Obey” for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Yes, you make it clear. Continue to teach and transform us to be and do all you intended for us. I say yes to you!
In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe
 
And I’m singing…“Trust and Obey”
(By John H. Sammis, 1887)
 
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
 
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
 
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
 
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
 
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
 
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
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